Nothing can be more confusing and frustrating than following all of the steps suggested by hair care professionals and still end up with dry, frizzy, and brittle hair.
Especially after learning the wonders of sealing with butter or oil for more lasting hydration, but still wake up the next morning with dry strands. Well, it’s not entirely your fault. It may be due to your hair porosity.
In today’s guide, we’ll be talking about hair porosity levels and everything you need to know about how to test your hair porosity type. That’s not all; you’ll also learn how best to treat your hair, depending on the porosity of your hair.
But before we get started, we need to, first of all, understand what hair porosity means.
What is Hair Porosity?
In simple terms, hair porosity means your hair’s ability to soak up and hold oil, water, as well as other water-soluble products. In other words, hair porosity consists of how easily your hair absorbs and retains moisture.
This is usually determined by the cuticles of the hair shaft. Hair porosity can also be thought of the same way you would think of the various types of skin: oily, combination, dry and normal. Remember you don’t buy skincare products solely based on face shape or skin color; instead, you buy based on your type of skin.
The same principle also applies when it comes to buying your hair care products. It’s always essential to shop according to the porosity of your hair.
Furthermore, to fully understand the hair porosity concept, it helps to know a little about your hair structure, which is basically made up of three layers:
- The cuticle: The cuticle is the tough, protective outer layer of the hair, which consists of smaller cuticles that overlap each other.
- The medulla: Medulla is the soft, central part of your hair shaft.
- The cortex: Cortex is the thickest layer of the hair, which contains tough proteins and the pigment that gives the hair its color.
To maintain healthy and hydrated hair, oils, water, and other moisturizing products have to pass through the cuticle to reach the cortex.
However, if the cuticles are too close to each other, it becomes hard for these hair products to penetrate the hair, making it more difficult for your hair to get the needed moisture.
On the contrary, if the cuticles are too spaced from each other, your hair will find it challenging to hold moisture and staying hydrated.
Types of Hair Porosity
Hair porosity is divided into three categories, which includes low porosity, medium porosity, and high porosity. Below, we’ll be discussing about each of them in details.
Low porosity hairs basically have the cuticles tightly bound together with overlapping scales. Low porosity hair is often considered healthy, and is usually shiny, especially if it’s dark in color.
Besides that, low porosity hair also resists moisture when you try to wet it and is often difficult to process since it repels chemical penetration.
This type of hair is equally liable to buildup from protein-rich deep conditioners, which can give it a stiff and straw-like feel.
Characteristics of Low Porosity Hair
Below are some of the symptoms of low porosity hair:
- Hair products tend to stay on your hair and don’t absorb easily into the hair shaft
- Tough to hydrate
- Less prone to split ends and breakages
- Hair doesn’t tend to have much volume or elasticity
- Natural oils don’t penetrate quickly, but instead sit on the hair, making the hair dry and coarse
- Doesn’t take color very well
- Hair can appear shiny or dull, depending if there’s buildup
- It’s difficult for water to saturate the hair when washing
- It takes a longer time for the hair to air dry
How to Manage Low Porosity Hair
When it comes to managing low porosity hair, the first thing is to stick to using protein-free, daily conditioners with humectants products like honey or glycerin. These products will help to attract and retain moisture to your hair.
Using moderate heat with the protein-free deep conditioning treatments will help to loosen the tightly bound cuticle.
Additionally, low porosity hair needs moisturizers rich in emollients such as jojoba oil, coconut oil, mineral oil, and shea butter. Opt for lighter, liquid-based hair products like hair milk that won’t buildup on your hair, leaving it greasy or oily.
Overall, stick with low porosity hair products and avoid using any type of products on your hair.
Here’s our detailed guide about low porosity hair.
Medium porosity hairs often require the least amount of care and maintenance. This is mainly because the cuticle is more loosened, absorbing only the right amount of moisture, while not allowing too much to escape.
Medium porosity hair tends to retain styles more. You can perm and color it with predictable results. However, these processes can damage your hair over time and increase its porosity.
Characteristics of Medium Porosity Hair
Below are some of the symptoms of medium porosity hair:
- Your hair takes color very well
- It’s easy for your hair to retain the style and can hold it for an extended length of time
- Your hair tends to look glossy and healthy
- Your hair doesn’t take too long to air dry
How to Care for Medium Porosity Hair
You want to stay away from chemical processes as they can make normal porosity hair to change over time.
You can use deep conditioning treatments with protein conditioners occasionally as they’re good for medium porosity hair. However, don’t include proteins in your daily regimen.
High porosity can be either be the outcome of damage from chemical processing, an intrinsic property of hair, environmental damage, or rough treatment. Hair with high porosity has holes and gaps in the cuticle, which allow too much moisture into your hair, disposing of it to frizz and tangling in humid weather.
Whether it’s because of hair damage or genetics, highly porous hair lets moisture to be easily absorbed into the hair shaft, yet it cannot retain moisture for long.
Even simple activities like bathing, shampooing, and swimming can cause more damage and breakage because of the sheer amount of moisture high porosity hair can take in.
Symptoms of Higher Porosity Hair
Some of the symptoms of high porosity hair include:
- Your hair tends to easily break
- Water, oil, and other moisturizing products are absorbed into your hair quickly
- Your hair doesn’t take much time to air dry
- Your hair tends to be dry and frizzy
How to Manage High Porosity Hair
If your hair is highly porous, ensure to use anti-humectants in climates with high humidity and heat. This will help to seal the damaged cuticles, preventing them from taking in excess moisture in the air.
And because high porosity hair can equally lose moisture easily, it’s advisable to use moisturizers, leave-in conditioners, and sealers. Layering these products will help your hair retain the moisture you’re offering it.
Besides that, you can also follow up with a heavy hair butter, which will help to cover the holes in your damaged cuticles, thereby protecting your hair from losing too much moisture. And lastly, ensure you only use high porosity hair products that are proven to be good with your hair porosity.
Here’s our in-depth guide on high porosity hair
How to Test Your Hair Porosity
Discovering your hair porosity is often the first step to knowing what products will and won’t be suitable for your hair. Aside from that, knowing which type you have can also save you lots of money, time and frustration. Fortunately, porosity is very simple to figure out.
Here are the three tests you can do now to determine your hair porosity:
The Float Test: This method involves taking a strand of “clean hair” from your comb or brush, and dropping it in a clean glass of water. Then, let it sit for some minutes.
If the hair floats to the top of the water, you have low porosity. If it floats somewhere in the middle of the glass, you have medium porosity, and if it sinks to the bottom of the glass, you have high porosity
The Slip ‘n Slide Test: Take a strand of your hair and slide your fingers on it, moving up toward your scalp. If the shaft is smooth, you have low porosity hair as your cuticle is bound tight. And if you feel some bumps along the way, then your hair is high porosity.
The Spray Bottle Test: Take a little section of your hair and use a spray bottle to mist it, then observe it. If the water absorbs quickly, you have high porosity hair. And if it beads up on your hair, your hair is low porosity.
However, you have medium porosity hair if the water sits on your hair for a few minutes before absorbing in.
Now, take some time and determine your hair porosity. This will help you to stop wasting money on the wrong products, but instead, focus more on products that’ll significantly benefit your hair.
Can You Change Your Hair Porosity?
You may not be able to change your high or low hair porosity if it’s as a result of genetics. According to hair experts, however, there are a few ways you can make your hair healthier, smoother, more manageable, and easier to style.
For highly porous hair:
Ingredients such as oils and butter in shampoos and conditioners will help moisturize your hair. Leave-in conditioners and sealers will also help your hair to retain moisture.
You also want to use a heat protector product, which can protect your hair from heat damage. Apply the product before blow-drying or using other heat styling treatments on your hair.
Furthermore, it’s advisable to avoid hot water when conditioning and shampooing your hair. Instead, use lukewarm water.
For low porosity hair:
Start by using protein-free conditioners as they tend to be more easily absorbed into the hair and may be less likely to result in product buildup.
Applying conditioner to already wet hair is also a good practice – and diluting the conditioner before using it may make it easier for it to be absorbed into your hair.
Additionally, look for ingredients such as honey and glycerin in shampoos and conditioners. Steer clear from products that contain oils, as they often find it difficult to penetrate the cuticle.
And lastly, apply heat when conditioning your hair. Use a hooded dryer, heat cap, or a steamer. But if you don’t have any of these, simply put a shower cap over your hair immediately you’ve added a conditioner.
You may not hear about hair porosity often, but knowing your hair porosity can help you better understand how to care for your hair. And that can consequently result in hair that’s healthier and stronger.
Hair porosity is genetic; for the most part, however, factors such as heat, environmental and chemical damage can all have a significant impact. Furthermore, porosity does not depend on climate, race, curl pattern, hair length.
Therefore, your best bet is to know your own type of hair porosity and figure out the best ways to treat, manage, and take care of it. In the end, you’ll have that glossy, luscious curls you’ve always desired.